The stately Balmoral Castle in north-east Scotland was once built at the request of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, is now the Queen's summer residence and is visited by 85,000 people every year.
When one sees Balmoral Castle in the midst of a magnificent English landscape garden, it is no wonder that the Queen has chosen the castle in Scotland as her summer residence. The classic Scottish Barony-style building has been classified as a building of national and international importance in the UK 's Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, and is also on our list of the top 10 places to visit in the UK.
The granite Balmoral Castle is located in Aberdeenshire on the banks of the River Dee pretty much between Ballater and Braemar. The castle is privately owned by the British royal family and does not belong to the British Crown. The entire region is called "Royal Deeside" because of its royal occupant.
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History of Balmoral Castle
King Robert II of Scotland already used the idyllic landscape around today's Balmoral Castle as a hunting ground, and the first house was finally built in the 14th century as the seat of Sir William Drummond.
Much smaller at the time, the building passed through the hands of numerous dukes until 1848 when Prince Albert and Queen Victoria holidayed in Scotland and fell in love with the landscape and peaceful estate.
Four years later, Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle for his wife. However, the castle was too small for royal standards and the royal couple had the building demolished and rebuilt 90m away for more than 15 times the purchase price. The leading architect who carried out the rebuilding in the period up to 1856 was William Smith of Aberdeen, whose father had previously worked on Balmoral Castle.
Balmoral Castle today
Even today, Balmoral Castle serves as the Queen of England's summer residence. In the high season, around 100 servants look after Her Majesty's well-being, in the low season it is about half that number.
The entire estate of Balmoral Castle covers 243 square kilometres, on which there is farmland, moorland, woodland with game and also some small villages. Grazing herds of cattle as well as Haflinger and Highland ponies make the picture of the Scottish Highland idyll perfect.
Also to be found there are Birkhall, used by Prince Charles and Camilla as a holiday residence, and Craigowan Lodge, one and a half kilometres away, where the Queen regularly has friends, family members and important guests stay.
Visit Balmoral Castle
Visitors are greeted from afar by Balmoral Castle's 24-metre high clock tower. In 1931, the castle gardens were opened to the public for the first time and can still be explored from April to the end of July. After that, the Queen resides in her castle for two to three months and tourists have to stay outside.
Within Balmoral Castle, only the imposing ballroom, the largest room in the castle, can be visited. In its magnificent ambience, silver, porcelain, paintings, uniforms and traditional Scottish Highland costumes are on display.
Walks through the wonderful garden, where vegetables, fruit and herbs thrive alongside countless fragrant flowers, the wildlife of Balmoral Castle and various exhibitions make a visit to the castle an impressive experience that can be internalised over a cosy coffee in Balmoral Castle's coffee shop.
Tip: Whiskey fans should not miss a taste of the Royal Lochnagar Single Malt Whiskey distilled directly at Balmoral Castle!
Walks around Balmoral Castle
Those with a little more time can enjoy the idyllic lands of Balmoral Castle on extended walks and look out for the more than 3,000 specimens of red deer and the over 200 species of birds. Like Queen Victoria, who often spent half a day out and about in the magnificent countryside, tourists today can explore the area on the well-maintained footpaths.
In summer, rangers guide interested visitors to particularly beautiful places and even climbing opportunities are available on the lands, most notably the majestic Mount Lochnagar.